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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Gated waterfront resort offers more than a cottage

Gated waterfront resort offers more than a cottage

Developer Eric Kerzner started out to build a lifestyle community in Orillia -- one his parents would like. But that initial plan evolved into a waterfront resort project for empty-nesters that, unexpectedly, is attracting interest from all manner of cottagers and retirees. Even he and his family have purchased a house there.

The president of Toronto-based Signature Carleton Inc. didn't intend to live at the seven-acre site -- called Sophie's Landing. But "we had a [cottage] in Collingwood, and it became more and more difficult to travel there," he explains.

What this project offers is more like a true home than a cottage. Each dwelling will have an attached garage, main-floor laundry room and gas fireplace. There will be nine-foot ceilings -- vaulted in some rooms. Standard finishes will include ceramic tile flooring, 5½-inch baseboards and laminate countertops.

For people who want to run a business from the resort, there will be high-speed Internet service, as well as space to set up a home office. As for location, Mr. Kerzner says: "It's very convenient. I can jump on the highway and be in [Toronto] in an hour."

Named after the youngest of Mr. Kerzner's four children, Sophie's Landing will be a high-end, gated community located where Lake Simcoe meets Lake Couchiching, about 140 kilometres north of downtown Toronto,.

"Orillia is grossly underdeveloped," says Mr. Kerzner, who builds custom homes and resorts. "It's surrounded by lakes. It's south of the black-fly belt, so in the summertime there are no bugs. It's on the Trent-Severn Waterway, so it's great for boating and skiing. [And it's] close by golfing and the casino [Casino Rama], so there's tons to do there."

The community will consist of 90 freehold residences along Atherly Road and Invermara Court on Smith Bay. The first phase of 49 bungalows is nearly sold out and half occupied. The second and final phase of 41 townhouses -- three-storey homes or bungalows with optional lofts or Muskoka rooms -- will be ready by fall.

Amenities will include a clubhouse, pool and espresso lounges, plus more than 1,000 feet of waterfront trails with gazebos, benches and barbecue areas. A recreation centre with fitness facilities, hot tubs and a spa will be added in the second phase.

Local amenities include live theatre, shops and historic sites such as the Stephen Leacock Museum.

As in phase one, purchasers can customize floor plans. The homes will have Muskoka or French country exteriors constructed from any combination of stone, Cape Cod siding or stucco, and will feature steep rooflines, covered porches and balconies.

The community will be tied into the city's water, gas and sewer systems. The monthly fee for the maintenance of common elements will be about $125. Owners can buy a separate maintenance package, as well as private docks for planes and boats.

Sophie's Landing

Location: Orillia

Developer: Signature Carleton Inc.

Price: $249,900 to more than $399,900

Square footage: 1,000 to 4,000

Sales centre: 5 Invermara Court, Orillia. Open Tuesday to Friday, 1 to 5 p.m.; weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; evenings by appointment.

Contact: (705) 329-7710 or

Sunday, March 19, 2006

On thin Ice

Despite weeks of warnings, Sgt. Greg Williams just knows folks will keep going through the unstable thin ice of Lake Simcoe.

This week, two retirees bent on fishing for tasty perch drove their pickup truck right into a big pressure crack five kilometres off Sutton at the lake's south end.

"They didn't have a hut," said Williams, who heads York Region police marine unit. "I guess they were just going to drill a hole and drop a line from their truck.

"Now they've got to figure a way to get the truck hauled out of there."

Since Saturday, half a dozen other vehicles have plunged through thin ice on the lake from Keswick north to Fox Island. All occupants escaped unhurt.

Ice-fishing operators were busy dragging their huts off the lake this week to beat the annual March 15 midnight deadline when all huts must be removed.

"It's really nasty out there," said Terry Taylor, who joined friends on ATVs to pull his personal hut back to shore in wind that gusted to 90 km-h, whipping snow that stung like buckshot.

"It wasn't a good year anyway," said Taylor, 40. "On a scale of one to 10, it was probably a one.

"We had a late start, the conditions were bad and the fishing, well, it was no hell for me."

Conditions were so bad that Greg Haines, co-owner of Bonnie Boats in Jacksons Point, didn't even bother to put his huts out — for only the second time in more than 50 years.

"It didn't get safe soon enough," he said. "We would have only got three weekends and that's just not enough to make it worthwhile.

"But some fishermen don't want to give up. It's a disease with them, I guess."

Four people have died on the lake this year. Two motorcyclists drowned last month when their bikes plunged through the ice northwest of Keswick in the middle of the night. A passenger survived the accident and was able to clamber up onto the ice.

Two other people died last month when their snowmobiles collided on the Holland River.

"We always get people going through the ice, so we're always prepared to get people out," Williams explained. "We'll get you out, but we don't get your vehicle."

Since most insurance policies don't cover such accidents, the cost of driving through the ice, coupled with salvage costs, can easily tally $50,000 or more.

"Plus, you could lose your life," Williams said.

Police get a satellite picture of the lake every four hours and glimpse huge sheets of ice, sometimes two kilometres wide by three kilometres long, floating free.

"People just aren't paying attention when we say, `Stay off,'" Williams said. "They're risking their life for a fish. It's safer to buy one instead."

The lake is "fantastic" if the ice is safe, said Williams, but this winter it hasn't frozen everywhere.

"We look for the hard blue ice that's really thick. But it can also freeze in layers with water in between. At this time of year, when the sun beats down and the weather is warm, it crystallizes the ice.

"It's thick but it won't hold any weight. So you might be on good blue ice and then take two more steps and down you go."

People in vehicles are taking even greater risks.

"If you're in a truck, you actually create a wave under the ice," he explained. "The faster you go, the bigger the wave and it tends to pop the ice up, so you make your own hole and drive into it.

"That's far too big a risk now."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A great article in the Sun about the Lake Simcoe community

ON LAKE SIMCOE -- Not everybody is looking forward to winter's end.

In fact the forecast that there could be more wintry conditions coming our way was greeted with glee up here near the town of Sutton. Many love winter. Hate to see it go.

True in the city there was thunderstorms and rain yesterday and everybody can taste that long awaited, much anticipated first breath of spring on their tongues. It's also nice to think about no more tuques, boots and winter coats and the start of baseball.

But they look at it differently up here. It's amazing the different perspectives on the year's first season when you drive a little more than an hour north of the city. "I am in Heaven," says Rod Baker, a firefighter.

Sound fishy? Well he smells fishy too. And loving it. But he and the hundreds of others out on the ice have until just the end of tomorrow to get off.

There's no choice. The ice is melting. It's the end of the season. Where the heck did it go? Some already can't wait until next winter. "It is a little more convenient for the locals," said Alicia Trivett at the Georgina Island Police station.

It's much easier to get around for sure. The snowmobile is the number one form of transportation out here. And lets not forget about the ice highway across the lake from near Sutton to the beautiful island. "I wouldn't recommend driving on it now," says Alicia. "I came over in the jet air boat."

But you know people will still fish, still snowmobile and still drive their vehicles on the ice. People were doing just that yesterday. Hopefully they are careful because even a return of Old Man Winter does not mean the ice is safe.

It's amazing the difference a few days and a few points in temperature make. Last week it was still a winter wonderland and there were hundreds of cars, skidoos and fishing huts out there. The ice seemed like it could survive until July.

Last night people were crossing their fingers for more winter. The summer up here is divine but, when it's frozen, it's a fascinating little city on the ice. Winter is where it's at on Lake Simcoe.

"It's a special area," said Steve Woolhead of Sutton's RnR Cycle and ATV, who sell and service an awful lot of the area's snow machines.


It's not uncommon to see Canadian sleds parked in front of the Virginia Lakefront Restaurant, right off the ice, where people line up for one of Anna Silva's famous giant hamburgers. There's a real sense of community here. They know each other and help each other. Your battery is dead or your truck is stuck -- there's always someone to assist. No CAA needed and no credit cards necessary.

It's old fashioned courtesy and caring in action. Characters like local Charlie Warren, who just gets a kick out helping people. "That's what we do," he said, while heading out to help a young couple in a snowbank.

Each town of fishing huts is connected by a highway of snowmobile trails -- a very interesting illustration of Canada and a collection of Canadians. There's something cool about seeing a Ski-Doo parked in front of a fishing hut. It's old time Canada. "It just doesn't get any better than this," says Baker. "I have got everything I need here."

He does. In his tiny fishing hut there's a stove and all the supplies needed to survive a night out. "I've got fishing line, some food and some beverages," he says, adding there's nothing quite like a pan full of fried perch.

Not too far away others pull up in their snow machines to the Peninsula Resort -- which has a motel and restaurant and of course happy hour. Summer or winter, boaters or sledders, it's always warm and friendly in the Peninsula where Jerry Kucharchuk and his mom Helen have been serving patrons for 45 years. Jerry has no plans to leave.

Nor does Baker. There's no trip to Florida planned for him.

There must be some big fish down there to catch.

If not he can always stop into the Peninsula. "We love it," Jerry said of all the locals and tourists alike. "It's nice meeting all of the people."

Of course, they are good, old time Canadians hanging on to the end of another beautiful winter.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

$25,000 in prizes at Simcoe perch tourney

$25,000 in prizes at perch tourney

Fresh off a successful Canadian Ice Fishing Championship, organizer Rocky Madsen is now setting his sights on a big perch tournament Sunday at Sibbald Point Provincial Park.
There will be a prize purse of $25,000 up for grabs, said Mr. Madsen, a Sutton resident.

The Lake Simcoe Super Trap Attack tourney is expected to attract perch specialists from across and province and the United States. American anglers are big fans of the tasty panfish and come to Lake Simcoe in large numbers throughout the year.

Mr. Madsen said he's had calls of interest from anglers in Michigan, Illinois and New York.

Lake Simcoe is regarded by some as the best perch fishery in the world.

The contest features a bass-tourney style live weigh-in, Mr. Madsen said. The public is welcome to see the weigh-in that starts just after 2 p.m.

Anglers take off at 8 a.m., but must be on site at 7 a.m. for mandatory equipment inspection. A team meeting is set for the evening before at 6 p.m. in the Sutton Room of the Georgina Inn.

As in the ice fishing championship, anglers can sign up at anytime prior to Sunday. Unlike the championship, participants in this tourney have a wide area to fish, Mr. Madsen said.

Anglers can dip their lines anywhere from Jackson's Point, around Georgina Island to Duclos Point, but they must return by the 2 p.m. deadline. Boundaries are subject to change. Ice conditions early this week were described as good.

Tourney headquarters is Smoky's Bait and Tackle on Lake Drive in Jackson's Point.

The tournament information line is 905-722-5425. See for more details.

The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority...

The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority was granted approval to use herbicides to manage and control the spread of invasive tree species in the red pine plantation in the Durham Region Forest.

Environment Canada is sponsoring the invasive alien species partnership program as various alien tree and shrub species have become established throughout the Lake Simcoe watershed.

The species have the potential to displace natural species.

The program includes cutting or the girding of certain trees, followed by the application of herbicide to ensure the tree or shrub won't regenerate.

Ice Fishing update

Lake Simcoe - Cooks Bay ice holds well on both sides of the bay, and Keswick-area anglers have hit into bigger fish this past week. Pefferlaw River/Port Bolster-area operators have huts out over 30-foot depths on ice 21/2 to 3 feet thick. Bigger perch and a one-keeper-for-two-caught ratio held in recent days.

Operators must remove their huts at Simcoe by midnight Wednesday, but a few huts are still open at Randy's (705) 437-2989 and Hales (905) 955-1104.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The 2006 Ontario Winter Games in Simcoe

Take 22 sporting events, 3,000 young athletes, 10,000 spectators and 800 volunteers, bring them together at venues scattered across Simcoe County and what do you have?

The 2006 Ontario Winter Games.

"For some of the athletes, this is their Olympics," said Michelle Federer, manager of operations for the Town of Collingwood. "They have worked hard to make it here and they are so excited about competing at the provincial level.

"For some, this is as far as they will go in competition, and so they really think of these games as their Olympics."

Set to get underway in two weeks, the Ontario Winter Games is a celebration of amateur sport that will fill hotels and restaurants from Collingwood to Barrie from March 8 to 12. Athletes as young as nine will compete, and family members and friends will cheer from the sidelines.

Federer is managing events in the Collingwood, Stayner, Wasaga Beach and Duntroon venues.

"Hotels are booked solid, and this is really bringing all of Ontario's eyes to our region," Federer said. "It's a great opportunity for the area."

And it's an opportunity that only came to Simcoe County last spring by default when Sarnia town council decided not to host the Winter Games.

"Sarnia was originally awarded the 2006 games, and then decided that they didn't want to host them, so the Collingwood mayor stepped in at the last minute," Federer explained. "We've only had a few months instead of two years to get this huge event together."

And soon, the work will pay off with the hills, halls, pools and gyms of Collingwood and surrounding area coming alive with the sound of alpine skiing, judo, badminton, synchronized swimming, bowling, fencing, water polo, hockey, squash, figure skating, gymnastics and much more.

Opening ceremonies will be held in the Village at Blue, located at Blue Mountain Resort, on March 9, from 7 to 9 p.m.

This is the first time the Ontario Winter Games are being held as a regional collaboration. Collingwood is the leading host municipality, with the support and partnership of the Town of the Blue Mountains, Clearview Township, Wasaga Beach, Canadian Forces Base Bordon and Barrie all offering facilities and sites that could ultimately see the event be permanently scheduled in the area.

The various Ontario Games programs have been in existence for more than 35 years. The goal of the programs is to encourage young people in Ontario to live healthy, active lives through the development of positive role models, the pursuit of excellence, the building of life values like teamwork and the strengthening of our communities – all through sport.

The Ontario Games for Youth started in 1970 as a showcase for amateur sport. As the province's largest multi-sport event, the Ontario Games, for those aged 22 and under, provide the province's young athletes with development and competitive opportunities that prepare them for national and international competitions. They also give the public a chance to see some of Ontario's best amateur athletes compete at a provincial level.

The Games are held every two years in even numbered years, as a prelude to the Canada Games.

“Collingwood has a rich history of running world-class events," said Peter Dunbar, director of leisure services for Collingwood. "The expertise at the local level, in many disciplines, allows us to produce above-average athletic venues in all sports.

"The region is known for its tourism expertise and with a mid-Ontario position, allows efficient travel to our games."

The town hosted the games in 1991 with a theme of The Will to be the Best.

"From this regional partnership, we will again provide athletes the environment to be the best,” Dunbar said.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Aurora angler dominates ice fishing championship

Aurora angler dominates ice fishing championship
Former champs couldn't crack top 10 in weekend event

The Georgina Cup is heading south.
The Canadian Ice Fishing Championship, long dominated by hometown anglers, was won by Aurora's Cam Moore and partner Leon Maloney from Hillsdale.

Mr. Moore was also the top male angler, leading the scoring parade after day one of last weekend's event off Georgina Island.

Mr. Moore and Mr. Maloney grabbed the lead in shallow water Saturday, limiting out on perch and landing buckets full of panfish as well.

They padded their lead by hooking several jumbo perch among their haul.

They were skunked on the second day in deep water and were nervously looking over their shoulders to see if lake trout and whitefish specialists like the Joyce clan, Rick Rogers, John Benyik and partner Mike McNab -- all former champs -- could make up the difference, but the fish were reluctant to bite all day.

Brothers Mike and Norm Burden, who had won the tourney two years in a row, couldn't crack the top 10.

While about 4,800 panfish were caught on the first day in occasional blizzard conditions, a sunny but bitterly cold Sunday only saw 16 lakers and whities take the bait.

Close to 100 per cent were live released over the weekend.

Benyik and McNab did win the largest fish category with McNab landing a 30-inch lake trout and Benyik a 27-inch whitefish.

For their efforts, McNab will have his name inscribed on the Dan Perry Memorial trophy and his partner on the John Reddings Memorial.

The pair caught their winning lunkers at the same time fishing side by side. "I said I had one on and Mike said he did, too. I thought we might have the same fish," Benyik said, declining to reveal their bait or method.

"That's our secret," Benyik said grinning.

In addition to the hardware, Moore and Maloney walked off with a cheque for $10,000.

Locals Shane Young and Tom Sedore were second, winning $5,000 and Aubrey Gould and John Best were third, grabbing $3,500. All anglers in the top 10 won cash.

"I've fished this four years now, and Leon for 11 years, but this is the first year we've fished together," Moore said.

Councillor Ken Hackenbrook was named recipient of the prestigious Bill Bond Memorial Trophy for his contributions to the sport of ice fishing over the years.

"He's a real community man, a worthy individual," organizer Rocky Madsen said.

"I couldn't believe it," Mr. Hackenbrook said.

"It was a total surprise."

Wife Lorraine remarked smiling, "It was one of the few times I saw him at a loss for words."

Past recipients include John Power, Wil Wegman and Charlie Johnston.

The top mixed couples award, a new prize this year, was won by Susie Pike and Fred Haywood. The appropriately named Pike repeated as female champ, a category she has dominated over the 12-year history of the tourney. The pair also picked up $700 for finishing seventh overall. Pike said she's enjoying her winning streak and will be looking to repeat next year.

Sixty-two teams of competitors from Ontario, Quebec and the United States battled it out this year, down from previous years, with Madsen blaming earlier reports of poor ice conditions and the cancellation for that reason of the recent Lake Simcoe Ice Fishing Contest in Keswick, the biggest in Canada.

The winter storm that hit the area late Friday hurt the usual last-minute sign-ups.

"The ice was fine, but the word didn't get out," he said.

In addition to the $35,000 in shared cash and prizes, Madsen said $1,335 will be donated to the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority Foundation for improvements to the fishery.

Madsen said he is aiming to increase the cash payout next year.

For more on the CIFC and complete results, see the website next week.